This week's must-see DVD/BD, and why we're lovin' it.
What? The Way Back
Who? Directed by Peter Weir and starring Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan and Mark Strong
Why? Imagine escaping from prison only to be faced with a 4,500-mile journey on foot over the world's most inhospitable terrain to attain your freedom. Inspired by real events, director Peter Weir's The Way Back is a beautifully shot testament to man's indomitable will to survive. Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Mark Strong and Colin Farrell star as four of the seven prisoners that escape from a brutal Stalin-era Siberian gulag in 1940, but that was the easy part. The group struggles to survive as they face the blistering cold of Siberia, the vast deserts of Mongolia and the seemingly insurmountable obstacle that is the Himalayas as they continue on their trek south to India. Along the way they pick up a teen runaway (Saoirse Ronan) who further tests their humanity: Do they help the stray girl or will she only slow them down and risk their own lives?
This is six-time Oscar nominee Weir's first film since 2003's Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
. Like that film, the scope of The Way Back
is wide—very wide—and you will feel as if the tenacious characters are leaves caught in the wind as they traverse vast landscapes on their journey. The group takes on dust storms, freezing temperatures, hungry wolves, bloodthirsty mosquitoes, tempting mirages, questionable locals and more in their quest for freedom. The more they get to know and rely on each other, the more the survivors mourn the passing of each comrade who succumbs to the harsh elements along the way.
While Weir chronicles the group's physical hardships in exhausting detail, viewers might expect more background about the characters given the film's lengthy 133-minute runtime. The movie becomes a bit of an endurance test…and not just for the characters. Despite this missed opportunity for more character development, it's hard to watch The Way Back and not be inspired by its pervasive spirit of survival against all odds.
What Else? Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain "The Journey of the Journey," a 31-minute behind-the-scenes look at the film's production, as well as the theatrical trailer.